The twin announcements this past week of the addition of both Targeted Allocation Money to the tune of $10 million over the next 5 years and that the LA Galaxy have signed Mexican International Giovani Dos Santos will have an impact that reverberates across MLS, as the five-time MLS Cup champs suddenly look poised to make a run at a sixth crown.
But scratch the surface, and these change might mean big things for Colorado as well.
The Bad News: The Galaxy Just Got a Lot Better
Giovani Dos Santos is a huge signing on two fronts for LA. As a Mexican international, he’ll juice the attendance of Galaxy games a ton: El Tri fans with plunk down pesos to go see an international the same as EPL fans happily parted with their pence and shillings to see an aged, hamstring-less David Beckham jog verrrrrry slowly and ping perfect 50 yard passes. Dos Santos is, unlike Beckham, young and in the prime of his career, so he’ll also make the Galaxy better. Which is bad news for the whole Western Conference. This team can put up a 3, 4 or 5 spot on any team in league every night. LA has a talented defensive squad, but even if they started Groucho, Zeppo, Harpo, and Chico, they’d still probably be favorites to win the Supporters Shield.
The Good News: LA’s DP depth will require them to share the wealth
LA now has four players paid at a DP level on the books: Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, Steven Gerrard, and Dos Santos. The introduction of TAM means that the Galaxy can use around half their TAM this year to pay down Gonzalez’s pro-rated salary to get it under DP level. To understand that more, read this great article from Corner of the Galaxy or dive right into MLS’s Roster Rules. Be sure to download that last page and compare it to the new rules they inevitably release next week. *Wink* .
So for right now, the Galaxy can have their cake and eat it too: they’ve figured out how to shoehorn 4 DPs into 3.5 slots. But that’s not sustainable: LA’s already spent half of the TAM money they are allocated for the next 5 years.
Omar Gonzalez’s base is listed at $1.2M, so LA had to cash out all their TAM and half of another team’s to bring him down.— Dan Dickinson (@GothamistDan) July 17, 2015
So they can either A) trade Omar Gonzalez or Robbie Keane, B) Acquire more TAM money, or C) Hope the league opens a 4th DP slot.
Trading Omar is a tough proposition. At $1.45 million for a Center Back, there’s a very short list of teams that can or will spend big bucks for a defender. I can see San Jose, Seattle, Portland, DC, or NYC doing it: each is suspect in central defense, and each is profitable and hungry and soccer-mad enough to make that work. For the Rapids, trading Omar to another Western Conference Rival wouldn’t be ideal. On balance, the conference would be getting stronger. Our best hope is that he goes to an Eastern Conference team.
Trading Keane doesn't seem likely: he scores at will and is immensely popular, what with his summer-saulting-guns-blazing celebrations and his high profile. But you never know- he might not like suddenly being the 3rd (4th?) most marketable player on the team after Dos Santos, Steven Gerrard (and Gyasi Zardes [?]).
LA is going to need more TAM money from an opponent in MLS that doesn’t need it. The Rapids fit that bill perfectly. According to my finger math, the Rapids have spent about $3.20 million on non-DP players*, putting them under this year’s cap of $3.45 million by a significant amount. In short, the Rapids are frugal and can share their extra cap space with other teams, letting them swap regular and targeted allocation money on a shiny new toy from another MLS team. They don’t need their TAM money at all yet, since they have DP slots and cash to spend even before they need to tap the TAM. They are in a good position to trade a big chunk to LA, or any other Western Conference rival that plans to make a big move.
This might cause you to feel frustrated or hysterical: "the league is rigging the game for the big clubs! We’ll never compete!" And while I agree that a La Liga setup of two superclubs and a bunch of minnows would suck in MLS, I don’t think we’re quite there yet. La Liga allows each club to sign its own TV contracts, has limited profit sharing, and no salary cap: FC Barcelona is essentially operating with 32 DPs, plus they can even overpay or otherwise compensate junior players with insane extras (they paid a young Messi a LOT of money, and even guaranteed of all his growth hormone treatments for life ) .
Anyhow, the Galaxy have a number of exciting players that might be a nice fit with the Rapids for the bargain price of a bunch of money we don’t seem to need anyhow. TAM money needs to be spent on your roster, and each team must use at least $100K a year or lose it. Making a play for young studs like Ignacio Maganto or Raul Mendiola, currently spare cogs in this all-DP Galaxy offense, certainly makes sense. Going bigger to get Sebastian Lletget, Gyasi Zardes or Robbie Rogers by offering a larger chunk of TAM money and locking them up to a bigger contract would be even better.
The Ugly: MLS is likely to open up that 4th DP slot next year and let LA keep Omar
TAM is essentially a half DP slot. That seems untenable in the long term, as MLS grows, and teams like NYC, Toronto, LA and inevitably LAFC and Miami try to fill every DP slot. The league wants to grow with the two-fisted approach of locking down USMNT stars and drawing big international stars. That means there’s going to be a fourth DP spot, and probably soon.
Every time MLS does something like that, they throw a bone to the cheaper clubs like the Rapids to make it seem not-so-bad. For instance, any MLS team that doesn’t use it’s third DP spot gets extra allocation money. So even if Colorado doesn’t see a direct benefit spin off from the Dos Santos deal, there’s likely to be something in the deal to sweeten things for Colorado. That goes the same for the rest of the league though. Which means that if the league gives every team, say, $500K that they must spend on a new player, it all comes down to finding the best talent to fill that spot for the money. Which is the name of the game anyways, Dos Santos or no.
It’s not all about money. Some of the hottest young players in the league, like Zardes, Sjoberg, Ethan Finley, and Jordan Allen are making near the league minimum. So if the Rapids can be smart, LA’s acquisition of Dos Santos could be good for Colorado. That is, of course, a pretty big if.
* According to the MLS Players Union data, the Rapids only have one DP: Kevin Doyle. According to the MLS website and the Rapids, Juan Ramirez is a DP. But the Players Union says he makes $75,000. Our saintly editor John Rosch told me that the DP status has to do with his transfer fee, but I didn’t see anywhere in the MLS roster rules that explains this. So, if anyone can explain? Thanks.